The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has stated that the government’s avowed determination to clamp down on illegal mining activities in the country is not akin to xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals but a national commitment to protect the integrity of the environment.
“It is not a xenophobic trial where we are going after Chinese nationals. We are trying to protect the integrity of the environment and it is those engaged in galamsey that we are after. We will remain in the trenches until we achieve victory,” he stated.
He said the war against galamsey was an important battle Ghanaians must win, noting that there was a powerful vested interest by faceless individuals who were encouraging the menace which must stop.
President Akufo-Addo, who was speaking when he met the Media Coalition against Galamsey at the Flagstaff House last Friday, said the government recently found it necessary to engage the diplomatic community and other interest groups to seek their support in the collective fight against the menace.
“We are not against Chinese or any other citizens, but what we are all seeking is to protect the integrity of our environment to secure a better future for the unborn generation,” the President submitted.
The media coalition, which comprises the state-owned media, the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE), OccupyGhana, the Private Newspaper Publishers Association of Ghana (PRINPAG), the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) and other interest bodies, was led to the Flagstaff House by its convener, Mr Kenneth Ashigbey.
It has set out the objective to name, shame and push for prosecution persons involved in illegal mining and is courting the support of the citizenry to join in the combat to end the galamsey menace.
The call on the President was to inform him of the mission, as well as brief him on progress made since the coalition was put together and seek presidential support in the campaign against galamsey.
Welcoming the coalition, President Akufo-Addo said the government would soon unveil a national plan against galamsey to be announced by the Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng.
He indicated that the comprehensive plan detailed a well-coordinated strategy to ensure the end of galamsey in the country and urged Ghanaians to support the government to see the plan through to its logical conclusion.
While expressing appreciation to the coalition for mobilising the social conscience of the people, the President said he was happy to see various interest groups put together to be part of the campaign which, for him, was a demonstration of how seriously the coalition had taken the menace.
“If we do not make a collective effort to stop it, there will not be a land to pass on to the next generation. Once you have started this campaign, I urge you to pursue it to its very end,” he tasked the coalition.
He asked it to see the campaign not as a sprint but a cross-country race which should involve all Ghanaians.
President Akufo-Addo underscored the need to create alternative sources of livelihood for illegal miners and achieve that his administration would create a productive economy to create opportunities for all, so that they could channel their energies to better use.
He expressed optimism that with a sustained campaign against galamsey, destroyed lands would be reclaimed and polluted water bodies restored to become good sources of drinking water.
The coalition has declared the last Friday of every month as Red Friday, on which every Ghanaian is expected to be adorned in red attire in solidarity with the fight against galamsey.
The next one falls on May 26, 2017, and in accordance with the tradition, the President assured the coalition that he would solidarise with them in the appropriate colour.
Earlier, Mr Ashigbey, who is also the Managing Director of the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL), had commended the President for demonstrating political courage to fight the menace, adding: “It will stand you in good stead in our history.”
He said the media had been part of a leadership failure in bringing the galamsey issue to an end and that now was the time for them to hold the leadership of the country accountable, hence the formation of the coalition.
Mr Ashigbey pointed out that the coalition had set for itself certain key performance indicators to define the success of its campaign, including ending galamsey as soon as possible, the restoration of polluted water bodies, ensuring the provision of sustainable alternative livelihoods for illegal miners and naming, shaming and pushing for the prosecution of persons involved in the practice.
He told the President of plans by the coalition to hold town hall meetings in galamsey-riddled communities, including Kyebi in the Eastern Region and Wassa Akropong in the Western Region, to educate the people against the practice and also meet with the Chief Justice.
Mr Ashigbey lauded the Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, for designating 14 courts to deal with galamsey cases.
He told the President that one of the coalition’s objectives was to reach a situation where people living near the River Birim, including the President, could take calabash and drink fresh water from the river, saying that “will mark the beginning of victory for the coalition against galamsey”.